How Advance Health Care Directives Can Benefit Everyone

When people think about estate planning, they often consider it to be little more than a way to distribute assets after they are gone. While assigning ownership or inheritances of objects and money can be a significant part of an estate plan, there are other serious matters that can be addressed in an estate plan.

For example, many people have a living will, also called an advance health care directive, in place as part of their end-of-life plans. This document can be a crucial indicator of how a person wishes to be cared for in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated and cannot express him or herself. We can look at the recent story about iconic radio and TV personality Casey Kasem and see that not only did his health directive allow him to express his wishes for his final care, but it also allowed his family to make some very difficult decisions on his behalf.

In 2007, Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since then, Kasem’s wife and his children from a previous marriage have been battling over who would care for Kasem and what type of care he should receive. On more than one occasion, the two sides clashed bitterly in how they felt Kasem should be treated.

Sadly, Kasem passed away this weekend after the decision was made to cease efforts to extend his life through artificial nutrition. This one decision was undoubtedly very difficult for his family to make, and it was one that was challenged by Kasem’s wife.

However, according to reports, Kasem had expressed his wishes that he not receive life-saving efforts if his cognitive functions were absent and he was not expected to make any sort of recovery. He made this decision in 2007 when he filed an advance health care directive stating these very wishes.

Because Kasem had this document in place, his family could make decisions with some confidence that discontinuing the nutritional efforts is what Kasem wanted. Without this information, family members in a similar situation are left to make some excruciatingly difficult decisions and often have no reassurance that they are doing the right thing.

Taking the time to complete a living will not only helps the person who is receiving the care. It can also provide much-needed guidance and comfort to the people who must make these difficult and painful decisions.

Source: CNN, “Casey Kasem’s family feud: Judge allows water, food infusions stopped,” Alan Duke, June 11, 2014